After a tight loss coming off a huge 76ers comeback, the 76ers came out exactly how I expected them to—instant intensity right off the tip (literally) and playing Simmons on Trae Young from the get-go. The immediate steal and bucket from Danny Green got the crowd already involved and standing; this just helped them throughout the entirety of the game. A 33-20 first period came off the back of Tobias Harris’ 16 point breakout and high intensity “in your face” type defense. Trae Young had a 4 point first quarter while Simmons recorded a steal and block.
The 76ers started the third quarter with their bench on the court, who came out flat-footed, unwilling, and playing very little defense. However, the Hawks bench came on the floor guns blazing; Gallinari and Huerter were lighting it up from around the floor, which led to a 35-24 2nd quarter and a 57-55 lead at HT. With 1 minute remaining in the quarter, a frustrated Joel Embiid cut inside for a layup; when Gallinari flopped for the offensive foul to be called against Joel, he then stood up and gave Joel a small bump, leading Embiid to run and shove Gallo and giving both players a technical foul.
Embiid started the 3rd term with authority, getting two early quarter buckets and continuing offense, while Seth Curry also came out dropping shots from around the floor. With 6 minutes remaining in the third term, Embiid had 27 points along with 9 rebounds, and the Sixers lead 75-65. Embiid just constantly scored from the field and free-throw line in this quarter, ending off the quarter with 33 points and 11 rebounds. Ridiculous. Shake Milton also hit two quick 3’s coming off the bench, one being a DEEP buzzer-beater to end the third term. A 34-29 quarter put the Sixers up 91-84, heading into the last quarter.
Within 15 seconds of the last quarter, Shake Milton, the spark plug, threw an oop to the hype-man Dwight Howard. This elevated the 76ers crowd, setting the tone for the quarter once again. Multiple drive buckets, and shots around the court, forced a 104-86 lead with 8:25 remaining. The momentum continued for the 76ers, and the Hawks defense could not contain this offense; while Trae Young tried to rally his team back, but the Sixers' defense held up the Hawks. But it wasn’t enough, a 27-18 last term and 118-102 victory forcing the series to tie 1-1.
Now the 76ers will head to Atlanta and try to pinch a game back vs. the Hawks. Games 3 and 4 are a must-win in my eyes, and these games will 100% decide the fate of the series. Something I’ve observed is that this 76ers defense in game 2 was too much for the inexperienced Hawks, and forcing the ball away from Trae Young caused so many missed shots and turnovers from the Hawks' role players. I expect more of this in the series, and I hope the 76ers can kill momentum in Atlanta the same way they did with Washington, and let’s hope this team returns to Philadelphia with a 3-1 lead.